Federer’s resurrection since the beginning of 2017 has been nothing short of remarkable. After suffering three grand slam final losses to Djokovic since 2014, another semi-final loss at the Australian Open last year, and finally a Wimbledon semi-final to Raonic, he pulled out of the rest of 2016 with an injury.
At that point, I think most people thought he had missed his chance to win the elusive 18th slam. I for one did. I knew he would always be a threat as long as he played but the last thing I expected was for him to win the first slam he competed in after a six-month break.
Granted, the change is court speed in Melbourne played a key role in him winning the title but it was still a remarkable turn of events. It seemed too good to be true almost, especially with him defeating his nemesis from a break down in the fifth set.
You couldn’t make it up. But it happened and now Federer continued in the same remarkable fashion by winning the Indian Wells/Miami double. All of this at the age of 35, an age at which most tennis players are either heavily declined or retired.
What gives? Some have attributed his run to doping. Unfortunately, with the poor doping controls and the capitalist culture where corruption is rampant one can’t just dismiss these allegations off the bat if one is objective and honest.
It sure is tempting to believe that given such a remarkable and peRFect script. When Federer was losing to Djokovic and others in slams in the last few years Fedfans always used the excuse of his lack of stamina due to age.
What happened to that narrative after Federer won three five-set matches to win the Australian Open or to complete the Indian Wells/Miami double spanning three weeks which included two brutal three-set matches in Miami’s oppressive heat?
Certainly, a case for doping can be made in this situation and the behavior of Fedfans provide even more incentive for it. But since I am unbiased and objective(unlike them) I believe in innocent until proven guilty.
As far as I’m concerned if one is doping then it is very likely that all of them are doping in which case it evens out. I just don’t appreciate hypocrisy where Nadal or Djokovic is singled out but the possibility that Saint Federer is doping is entirely out of the question.
I used to accuse Nadal myself as a Federer fan when I still believed Federer represented good and Nadal evil, but I overcame my fanaticism. The world is not that black and white. I think it’s immature to worship one player like a god and vilify the other like he is the devil.
- Federer is a Rare Talent
The fact that Federer is a rare talent should be obvious. I say it to help explain why Federer could possibly achieve this remarkable transformation without doping. The truth is he’s been a different player since the beginning of 2014.
That is when he made changes to his equipment and coaching staff. Federer was immediately an improved player but it wasn’t until the second half of 2015 that he really peaked with his new racquet and attacking game style taught by Edberg.
He destroyed everyone in his path at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open in 2016 but kept running into Djokovic who disposed of him with relative ease. Then at Wimbledon last year where Djokovic lost early, Federer could not take advantage due to a lack of proper preparation after pulling out of the French Open and also due to some terrific tennis from Raonic.
Given the lack of preparation for Wimbledon, I thought he already did an amazing job by reaching the semis and coming close to winning the title. So I suppose it is not all that surprising that he could come back to win the Australian Open.
One could argue that his preparation was even worse after a six-month layoff but he did play the Hopman Cup and maybe the break was a good thing in that it rested his body and recharged his batteries. We have seen Nadal doing the same thing in 2013.
Many people, especially Fedfans, argued that Nadal was doping to explain his remarkable return in 2013 and the same people are now defending Federer from doping accusations. Be that as it may, maybe that long a break can really recharge players after being on tour for many years without a significant break.
I happen to think Djokovic may have benefited significantly from such a break by taking the year off after Wimbledon like Federer did. Hindsight is always 20/20 but judging from all the injuries and mental burnout he struggled with after that it was exactly what he needed.
For Federer, the break also provided the opportunity to work on some things like his backhand which helped him to defeat Nadal. Federer is such a unique talent that you can’t dismiss the possibility that he achieved all of this naturally either.
It’s the best start of a season he’s had since 11 years ago in 2006 which seems ridiculous but then there was also early losses of Djokovic in Melbourne and Indian Wells and his withdrawal from Miami.
Murray has also been a poor number one so far but I have my doubts as to whether he can ever defeat Federer in his current form. So other than Federer’s seemingly unlimited talent there are several other factors which could also help explain this seemingly unrealistic dominance like Nadal’s decline, Djokovic’s struggles, and the changed court speed in Melbourne.
The scheduling has also been good to Federer. In Melbourne, he had a much needed two-day break before the final and in Miami, he had another much needed day off before the final. Things sure seem to be going his way of late.
And I am happy for the non-fanatical Federer fans who had to wait a long time for Federer to win his 18th slam and probably stopped believing it would ever happen after Federer got injured again last year.
I also think it is good for tennis. I don’t like the fanaticism that goes with it but that is hardly Federer’s fault. My problem has never really been with him anyway. It’s just the cult-like following that gets on my nerves.
Djokovic is my favorite player but I don’t hate Federer or anything and I still enjoy his tennis. I also don’t have a problem giving credit and I am not biased in this regard. But the Kyrgios incident genuinely bothered me and it doesn’t make me biased to call it out.
I know Federer fanatics would love to believe I am biased and it is all just sour grapes because that would mean they don’t have to face up to their fanaticism, but they won’t get off that easily. Besides, expressing my displeasure with the Kyrgios incident doesn’t change the outcome.
Federer won the 2017 Miami title and that’s the way it will stay.
- What Can We Expect for the Near Future?
Federer has said his body needs a break and that he won’t play any clay court events in the lead-up to the French Open. His focus is on Wimbledon and the second half of the year which makes sense given his age but he must be tempted to go for a second French Open title now that he seems to have Nadal under control.
So I’m not convinced he won’t take a wild card in Rome and make a serious run at Roland Garros. If Djokovic gets the double career slam it’s gonna be another big achievement that sets him apart from Federer.
But Federer knows he can’t push himself too hard or he could risk another injury so it is probably the wise thing to save himself after all the success he’s had of late. In his current form, he is practically a lock for the Wimbledon title and he doesn’t want to risk that.
With Federer looking to take it easy during the clay court season this is Djokovic’s chance to get back in the game, but unlike Federer he doesn’t seem to understand how to schedule. After making the mistake to play Acapulco he is at it again by playing Davis Cup this coming weekend.
The elbow injury after Indian Wells signaled that he still hasn’t recovered from a very demanding run from 2015-16 after all this time but he doesn’t seem to get the message. With a critical clay and grass court season coming up it seems like insanity not to get all the rest he possibly can.
But at least Davis Cup is a maximum of three matches per player so hopefully, it won’t cost him big time later on.
If Djokovic wins the French Open the grass court season becomes interesting. Or else Federer pretty much collects his Wimbledon title. If he fails at the French he could go slamless this year which would allow Federer to clean up and settle the GOAT debate with ease.
Nadal will also make a serious run at his 10th French Open after his recent form while Murray will look to reassert himself too. Stan is also a big threat on clay. I’m very much looking forward to the clay court season.
The Masters events will tell us a lot about what is to come at the French Open!